Facebook agrees to pause training of AI models on user data after ICO concerns

The Information Commissioner’s Office has been one of several European regulators to have engaged with the Facebook and Instagram owner in to air concerns about the use of individuals’ data

The UK’s data-protection watchdog has welcomed a commitment from Meta  to suspend work to train artificial intelligence models on the data of European users of its social platforms.

The Information Commissioner’s Office was one of several European regulators to have raised concerns about the use of personal data for this purpose. According to statement from the ICO, the company – which owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp – has now agreed to pause the AI training and undertake an assessment of the activity before any potential resumption.

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Stephen Almond, the ICOs executive director for regulatory risk, said: “We are pleased that Meta has reflected on the concerns we shared from users of their service in the UK, and responded to our request to pause and review plans to use Facebook and Instagram user data to train generative AI. In order to get the most out of generative AI and the opportunities it brings, it is crucial that the public can trust that their privacy rights will be respected from the outset. We will continue to monitor major developers of generative AI, including Meta, to review the safeguards they have put in place and ensure the information rights of UK users are protected.”

The ICO’s Irish counterpart – the Data Protection Commission – has also engaged with Meta to raise concerns about its AI training, and welcomed news of the suspension.

“The DPC welcomes the decision by Meta to pause its plans to train its large language model using public content shared by adults on Facebook and Instagram across the EU/EEA,” it said, in a statement. “This decision followed intensive engagement between the DPC and Meta. The DPC, in co-operation with its fellow EU data protection authorities, will continue to engage with Meta on this issue.”

Sam Trendall

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